An appeals court judge on Friday agreed to pause a lawsuit seeking to overturn a Trump administration rule on emissions standards and fuel economy.
More than 50 public interest groups and local and state governments had sued over the so-called Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) vehicles rule, which applies to vehicles with model years 2021-2026.
The rule cuts year-over-year improvements demanded from automakers from 55 miles per gallon by 2025 to 40 mpg by 2026. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued the rule unacceptably weakened emissions standards and hurt public health.
“[T]he harms resulting from these unlawfully lax standards grow larger and larger with each passing model year of vehicle sales,” a coalition of state and local governments said in a filing in March opposing a suspension of the lawsuit.
“The sheer magnitude of these accumulating harms, which include greenhouse gas emission increases greater than the total emissions of many States, warrants continued judicial oversight to ensure an opportunity for resolution if Respondents’ review is delayed or leaves some of these harmful standards in place,” the filing added.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) filed an amicus brief in the case in late January in support of the groups petitioning the rule.
“The Rule’s failure to prioritize the public as the [Clean Air Act] requires is demonstrated by its woeful health outcomes. EPA acknowledges that by weakening existing emission standards, the Rule will result in many more people dying and falling ill,” the lawmakers wrote. “[T]he substance of the Rule – and the procedures by which it was adopted – dispel any notion that EPA and [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] faithfully carried out their duties consistently with Congress’s directives.”
The rule is also the subject of a probe by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General, which is investigating reports that career EPA staff were shut out of development during the rule-making process.
“NHTSA would say nothing about what they were assuming. They wouldn’t give us a copy of their models, they wouldn’t share their assumptions, they wouldn’t share their projections of how much the standards were going to cost,” Jeff Alson, a former senior policy adviser to EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, told The Hill in 2019.